Pundit says Islamism greatest threat to Russia’s national security

Russian Mosque File Photo

(Interfax – Moscow, May 22, 2013) Radical Islam has taken roots in 55 Russian regions, former Interior Minister and president of the Club of Russian Military Commanders Army Gen Anatoliy Kulikov said at a scientific conference “Islamism and Russia’s national security” today.

“Radical political Islam, or Islamism, which has declared jihad on our country, is the most real threat to Russia of all currently existing threats,” Kulikov said at the conference.

He said that the “Islamic centres have been waging war on us since the time when a limited contingent of Soviet troops entered Afghanistan”. “They helped the Dudayev regime in Chechnya and continue to help the extremist criminal underground in the North Caucasus with money, weapons, instructors, and manpower; and they are ready to continue the war on the entire territory of the country,” Kulikov said.

According to Kulikov, “the ways of spreading and strengthening the role of Islam in our country are comparable to ways the West is using to promote the values ??of democracy (such as interference in internal affairs of other countries and the use of force), and therefore, it appears that further tolerance of radical movements has nothing to do with freedom of conscience”.

Kulikov believes that “in matters of combating aggressive Islamism, Russia has no honest allies”. “This has been shown by the whole course of the fight against the terrorist underground in the North Caucasus. Undisguised terrorists, ideologues and followers of Islamism find a safe shelter in states with so-called old democracies, even when these democracies are subject to terrorist attacks themselves,” Kulikov said.

According to Kulikov, several internal and external factors have contributed to the rise of radical Islam in recent Russian history, such as “a sharp split between social groups after unfair privatization of state property, collapse of the production industry, unemployment and impoverishment, corruption, and the authorities’ neglect of the needs of ordinary people, which has reached an unprecedented level of lawlessness”.

The external factors included armed conflicts involving Muslims, Kulikov said.

Kulikov is convinced that one of the factors that influenced the spread of radical Islam in Russia is that “many Russian regions are overpopulated with immigrants”.

Kulikov made several suggestions which the Club of Military Commanders is going to pass on to the executive authorities in order to fend off this new threat. Among them he mentioned the need to develop a long-term state programme to counter radical movements in Islam as a threat to the national security and territorial integrity of Russia. Another proposal concerns the creation of a ministry for nationalities and faiths. Kulikov believes it necessary to keep a record of people trained in foreign Islamic universities.

He also considers it necessary to “fundamentally change approaches to the problems of emigration and to declare a moratorium on new migrant workers as of 2014”.

Kulikov said that “countries around the world face the problem of Islamism, which manifests itself not only through preaching, but in real bloodshed, terrorist attacks and civil wars”. “Russia has already experienced all this and the threat remains. The terrorist underground in the North Caucasus has not been neutralized. The problem of the radicalization of Islam in Central Russia and the Volga region has been neglected far too long,” he said.

Kulikov said that “most European countries are also experiencing the problem of the influence of Islamism.” “They are watching the processes in Russia with restraint and sometimes critically, thus by default supporting extremists of all stripes. Meanwhile, the Arab Spring has shown that Islamism is marching around the planet and nobody has been able to pacify or tame it,” Kulikov said.

Army Gen Anatoliy Kulikov previously commanded the Joint Group of Forces in the North Caucasus and was head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.